I’m The January 2015 Skinless Project Inspirational Woman?!

Incredibly honored and humbled to share that I have been selected as the January 2015 Skinless Project Inspirational Woman!


You are the executive director of Donda’s House. Tell us about the initiative?

Donda’s House Inc. was created by Kanye West, Che “Rhymefest” Smith and myself to provide access to premium arts instruction to youth. We were named after Dr. Donda West, the mother of Kanye, who was an educator for 30+ years. She understood the value of literacy, and prior to her death, she wanted to put a state of the art recording studio in High Schools across the country. To date we have serviced over 115 youth, and we add new youth every semester to our initiatives!

Why was such a program a necessity in the areas where you operate?

Arts education & programming is routinely the first thing to go when schools and governments face budget crisis. There is also a push toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) often at the sacrifice of the arts. Donda’s House is a necessity, because we know that youth who study the arts have more positive life outcomes. They are critical and creative thinkers, problem solvers and have higher self-confidence and esteem.

You are a inspiration in yourself, tell us about your personal story – why focus on at risk youth?

At-risk youth, often to no fault of their own miss out on certain things – the love of two parents in a healthy relationship, quality food which fuels health and a quality education which is the passport to a better future. If those of us who have overcome challenges, can be a source of support, inspiration and guidance, we can make up for those deficits. I used to run track in High School, and sometimes if one of my teammates ran a poor leg, the rest of us had to make up for it to try to win the race. My personal mission in life is to find those children and help them make up for whatever losses or hurdles they have trouble clearing.

 Do you feel you have beaten the odds?

Interestingly enough, I feel there are always odds to beat. I overcame certain challenges by earning a college education, marrying the love of my life and raising our children in a two parent household but there are new challenges. As long as there are children who aren’t eating, who are being abused by the ones they love and neglected by systemic and generational neglect, there are still more odds I have to beat.

As a society – what can we do to improve the chances of success for these children?

Everyone has the power to do something. In some cases, it may be a donation (to a tax deductible organization), in other cases it may be volunteering one’s expertise or time. Everyone has the ability to do something. America as a society is one big village and we are only as strong as our weakest link. We have to unite and support each other so that we can collectively face our challenges as a country.

Finally – you have changed your pain into power   – how did you do it Donnie?

Faith is my lifeline. I don’t believe that my birth was an accident, nor do I believe that my pain was an accident. I try to take every single thing – good or bad in stride and use it as fuel to leave this world better than I came into it.

Check out the entire interview & feature here: http://skinlessproject.com/inspirational-woman-january-2015-donnie-smith-2/

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Don’t Squeeze The Life Out Of Your Partner or Relationship…

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my husband, with my friends and with family members about dating and marriage. One of the things that I said was don’t confuse possessiveness OR clinginess with love and attention. In my first marriage that ended in divorce after 5 years, my ex husband didn’t have any friends or interests outside of our relationship. That was a recipe for disaster, because anything that “competed” with him for my attention was dismissed or frowned upon, even if it was healthy.

When my current husband and I started dating, we talked about how sometimes a person can squeeze something so tight that it squeezes the life out of it.


Don’t get me wrong… quality one-on-one time is very important in a relationship. My husband and I go on a date alone at least once a week and we try to take a vacation outside of Chicago for a week every year.

A healthy relationship and marriage should be one where you are allowed to evolve and grow. Speak to your partner regularly about his/her goals, and try to support him/her in those goals. Of course, you don’t want to support him/her in their goals if it is something that will harm them (e.g. my husband is diabetic, so I’m not going to support him going to an all you can eat dessert bar or event). Our identities are multilayered. We can be lovers or spouses, and parents… but we can also be entrepreneurs, ministers and volunteers. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a person who wants to stay at home to take care of the kids, but I do think there is something wrong if someone feels forced to stay at home and take care of the kids. It’s also normal at the beginning of a relationship to be “addicted” to each other. It’s so exciting to feel a deep connection with someone that you’re attracted to, especially if one of your life goals is to get married, or find a monogamous relationship, but don’t lose sight of your dreams, your goals and your path, for the sake of a relationship. Speaking from experience that usually ends in something negative… the end of a relationship. The end of your happiness. or worse, the end of who you truly are…

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Tools To Set Your 2015 Goals

This is dedicated to @jarosha on Instagram. I posted this picture on IG and she wanted to know more about the other categories.


I actually downloaded the questions from one of my favorite bloggers Rosetta Thurman of Happy Black Woman. Here is where you can download your own copy: http://happyblackwoman.com/the-annual-reviewpreview-an-opportunity-for-intentional-reflection/

The main idea was “What I want to Bring Into My Life in 2014″ and some of the questions included (1) What do I want to learn in 2014? (2) Which old activities, habits or behaviors do I want to stop doing? and (3) What will my ideal day look like next year? Since I did not create the questions, I don’t want to copy them all hear, but assure you that Rosetta has everything you need!

Also, here is my Year in Review Scrapbook Page for 2014!


If you’re looking for more tools to set goals for this year check out my other recommendations here:

31 Days to Reset Your Life – http://happyblackwoman.com/31dayreset/

Create a Vision Board – http://donnienicole.com/2013/12/27/big-reveal-my-vision-board-for-2014/

Conduct an Annual Review http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/how-to-conduct-your-own-annual-review/ This is the most thorough goal-setting planner I’ve ever seen. If you love details, check this out!

I’d love to be your digital accountability partner!

Please head on over to my Facebook Page and share one of your goals for January! I’ll post three of my goals for the month of January!  I’ll check in with you online on February 1, 2015: https://www.facebook.com/donnienicolesmith. Please also “like” my Facebook page, so that the updates will show up in your feed. Cheers to you & your intentions for this year!

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How I Keep It All Together… (aka Tips To Manage Your Time)

Happy New Year!!!

Personally, I’m a wife, step mom (including a 16 year old who lives with my husband & I), dog mommy (to a 1 & 1/2 year old Black Labrador) & avid scrapbooker.

Professionally, I’m an Executive Director (of Donda’s House Inc.), 2014 Echoing Green – BMA Fellow, writer and assistant to my husband (who is an artist, writer, radio show host, etc.).

Like most people, I wear many hats, and the key to staying on top of things is organization! I also have to confess that I taught High School for over 10 years, so I LOVE lists, and treat my time and life like one big lesson plan lol! I’m a planner & organizer by training and by nature. My mom told me this funny story yesterday about how I used to line up my shoes and make my bed up (crooked) but I was so proud to “clean my room” at age two! It’s definitely in my blood…

If the system gets too overwhelming for you, don’t feel like you have to continue it. It is never too late to press the “esc” button in your life if something isn’t working for you! The thing about a time-management system is that you have to actually like it to make it work. My system is based on years of trying out different things and then finally I found a combination of tools that really help me to advance my personal and professional goals, stay on top of my appointments and keep my family in sync (without pulling out all of my hair lol).

Here are the tools that I use: 

(1) Paper Planner (Weekly View + Weekly Notes)

(2) Start: Your Quarterly Guide to Goal Domination by Krysta Masciale + Ruthi Auda

(3) Colored Ink Pens + Highlighters

(4) Google Calendar

(5) Print-out of Daily Tasks (with a place to check them off) – Download here: Weekly Checklist

(6) Accountability Partner

Where To Get The Tools & How To Use Them: 

1. Paper Planner – I purchased my paper planner at a store called Paper Source in early December. It’s by a company called Post by Graphic Images. I like my planner because it has a Weekly Calendar View on the left side, and a space for notes on the right side. You can also purchase planners at Office Supply Stores, and Barnes & Noble has a nice selection too. I prefer a planner that is small so that it can fit in my purse! I started with a Franklin Covey, but it was just so big and bulky, I abandoned that system pretty quickly! I love this paper planner, because when I meet with people I usually write down follow up and action items. It’s nice for those notes to “live” on the same page as the appointment.

Here is how it looks both outside and inside:

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2. Start: Your Quarterly Guide to Goal Domination by Krysta Masciale + Ruthi Auda can either be purchased digitally or a hard copy can be shipped to you.


I purchased the digital version and then printed out the pages.I like this tool because it is strictly for goal setting. It includes a section for writing goals in different areas of your life (including spiritual, investment, work, networking, personal development, physical well-being, financial, exploration & family/relationships). You basically set goals for each of those areas in your life every quarter and there is a reflection section at the end of each quarter. You then “schedule” time to work on your goals, so that they move from the goal phase to the action phase. Here are some of my Quarter 1 Goals:

  • Explicitly spend time every week Fundraising (work)
  • Attend one networking event per month (networking)
  • Hang out with bestie bi-weekly (family/relationships)

So that lead me to create a weekly fundraising appointment (“Fundraising Friday” from 10 am – 2 pm), find one networking event to attend per month (may be a meeting, actual networking event, other organization’s event, etc.) and schedule time every other week to meet up with my bestie. I had a ton of other goals, but hopefully you see how this system works.

FullSizeRender 3

(3) Colored Ink Pens + Highlighters – My favorite brand of pens for my planner include Paper Mate Ink Joy (300 RT 1.0 M ink), and Pentel RSVP (Med). I like the brands because the colors are very vivid and bright AND they don’t bleed through the planner ruining the page behind. I use different colored ink to mirror the colors in my Google Calendar. For example, personal & social events are written in hot pink, Donda’s House stuff is written in purple, and hubby’s stuff is written in black ink. I adopted the highlighter system from Myleik Teele (Founder of Curlbox). Also, check out this great piece about Myleik: “Mentor in My Head: 54 Life Lessons from Myleik Teele: CEO of Curlbox.” Basically, Myleik makes a daily to-do list and at the end of the day she uses highlighters to update the status of her task. For example, orange highlighter crosses off items that were completed, yellow highlighter crosses off items that were “touched” but not completed and pink highlighter crosses off items that were “not touched” therefore “not completed.” Yellow highlighter & pink highlighter items are then moved to the following day until the tasks are completed. Her color choices may be different but that’s basically how the system works. I usually try not to have more than three things on my to do list per day (on top of the daily tasks like reading my bible, checking e-mail, etc.).


(4) Google Calendar – Google Calendar is my main time-management tool. Google Calendar is great for “sharing” calendars with others. For example, I help manage my husband’s calendar, and both of us can make updates and it automatically syncs in all locations. Paper calendars don’t have that level of efficiency (unless you + family members use one calendar…) We also maintain an organizational calendar (that large groups of people have access to). Similar to my paper calendar, I use a color coded system.


(5) Print out of daily to-do list – I created this Weekly Checklist in Microsoft Excel and will print one out every Sunday during my weekly journal/scrapbook/weekly planning time. I don’t want to copy these things daily into my planner, so I will use my little weekly checklist instead. You can download the template by clicking here:

FullSizeRender 2

To print the template, highlight everything that needs to be printed (including all of your daily tasks and the cells through Saturday.

– Click “File”

– Click “Print” from the File List

– Click “Page Setup”

– Click “Landscape” instead of Portrait under Orientation

– Click “Sheet” and check the box that says “Gridlines” (which will print the lines between each row and column)

– Click “Ok”

– Click “Print”

(6) Find an accountability partner and try to check in at least once per month. My accountability partner is my best friend, and we will meet bi-weekly to talk about our goals (and share lots of laughs like we always do).

I have a weekly planning session on Sundays (to ensure that my Google Calendar + paper planner are in sync for the remainder of the month), and every night I update my paper planner (which is where my daily appointments and meeting notes live). If I had a meeting with someone, I take the action items and make time to complete them (whether it’s sending them some information they requested, conducting e-mail introductions or looking up something they recommended to me).

If you have ANY questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I will answer. I wish you well if you try out my full system, parts of the system!!!

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2014 in Review

Thank you for reading my blog! I hope to continue to inspire and grow with you in 2015! Toasting to 2015 and hoping to double the 77,000 views next year!

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 77,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Something Everyone Wants…


There are certain things that all humans need… we need water and we need food, but when it comes down to wants, it seems that it is all a matter of preference. After watching the film Birdman today, I realized that there is actually something that we all want, and that’s validation.

To validate (according to Dictionary.com) is substantiate, to confirm, to give official sanction, confirmation, or approval to.

When we fall in love with someone, we want them to confirm their love for us, because it makes us feel substantial. When we call a customer service line, we want someone to listen to our complaint, and then validate the error by fixing the problem or directing us to someone who can. When we do a good job, we want someone to acknowledge that good job, by offering a compliment, a pat on the back or even better a raise.

Conflict occurs when either we don’t feel validated or worse, when someone expresses that we are undeserving.

I think a lot of people want to be rich and/or famous, because people believe that material possessions (the rarer or the more expensive the better) and attention (the more followers, likes, & retweets) is the key to approval (even if that approval is based on limited or surface level information).

The truth is, validation is something that we all want because it’s motivation to keep going when things get tough. The more validated we feel, the easier it is to ward off character attacks. Validation is very much connected to our esteem and our self confidence. What can we do to validate each other in healthy ways? Parents, how do you validate your children? Teachers, how do you validate your students?

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Vision Board 2015 Reveal

I hope you are enjoying your Holiday Season! I wanted to share my Vision Board for 2015, which is my annual tradition to complete on or before the last day of each year.


My Vision Board sits above my desk in my office and now that I work from home, I see it several times per day! This year I focused on some of the things I’d like to do next year including travel, create a larger closet space for hubby and I and create more opportunities (I used to wait for opportunity…) I’m also hoping to get closer to that 7 streams of income for 2015, which I’ve learned is the key to financial success and prosperity. My Vision Board serves as a source of motivation & encouragement. Is a physical collection of all of things that I’d like to focus on either getting, doing or embodying within a 365 day period.


Finally, I want to remember to be a Proverbs 31 Woman: “She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future…” Faith over Fear in 2015!

If you have a Vision Board, I’d love to see it! Please drop a link to yours in the comments section!

I’ll try to check in again before the end of the year!


Here is my 2014 Vision Board: http://donnienicole.com/2013/12/27/big-reveal-my-vision-board-for-2014/ (also showcases my Vision Board from 2013).


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